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Isn’t acceptance giving up?

This is a common question, coming up with both people in early recovery and those not quite ready to enter recovery. There is a paradox of acceptance being strength and not weakness, acknowledgment and not resistance. I was forever saying “it is what it is,” about a number of things to my patients and clients, and then found there was a sign available from a catalog which said just that. It now hangs above my office desk. Clearly I was not alone in that way of acknowledging reality, or life on life’s terms.

Accept is an active word, which requires a shift of thought, and many times of shift in action as well. There is the joke about people not being willing to stop and ask for directions, and then driving or wandering around lost. However, whether we are lost on the highway or the highway of life, we need to accept that we are lost to be able to shift our thinking to seeking information, a road map, asking for and accepting help, and so forth. And where would our driver be if s/he didn’t accept the reality of being lost? Still lost, and unwilling to start the process of obtaining directions from some who knew the territory.

Let’s continue to look at the opposite of acceptance. Consider the energy one wastes by refusing to accept certain facts. We could also look at it as psychosis, which is what we call severe mental illness, in which the person suffers from a lack of contact with reality, or various reality distortions. So, acceptance may be seen as reality based, and most of don’t think of that as “giving up.”

Acceptance too is an active word, as it requires a fair amount of work over time and situations to have acceptance. People who just “give up” aren’t typically this involved in constructive hard work. The Big Book indicates that acceptance is the answer. What does that mean? That until there is acceptance- of the condition, people, places and things as they are, that the person cannot recover from alcoholism or addiction. Work now begins in earnest, but now it is to move forward, rather than the prior work of trying to resist reality.

Watch our flash videos on related topics when you want to accept a road map for change.


by: Lois Cochrane Schlutter, Ph.D. L.P.



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